Over the course of the coming weeks and months, various stories about my visit will undoubtedly be forthcoming. This is one that I had to tell first, right away.
I'm at my hotel pub in Limerick, hoisting a pint of Guinness and relaxing after a fairly long day of wandering all over the city. The folk wisdom goes that the Irish are a very friendly folk and will chat you up in such circumstances, and in this case, as in so many others on my trip, it turned out to be true.
After I'd been there for a little bit, a woman breezily strolled into the bar, ordered a drink, introduced herself, and began asking about where I was from, how my trip was going, and so forth. She looked to be in her early to mid sixties or so, though she later said she was 49. It became clear before too long that she had already been "refreshing herself" before she had started drinking at this particular pub... I suppose if that was a habit, it might be at least a partial explanation of why she looked so much older than she said she was.
Anyway. Also before too long, it became clear that this woman wanted to see my hotel room. As in, not to admire the furnishings. Leaning in very close to me, resting her hand on my thigh and stroking it, etc etc. Oh, brother, I started thinking to myself. Ireland is absolutely crammed with beautiful women
, and this
is the one who wants to play "hide the sausage"? Just my luck.
I kept trying to give off body language to indicate that I wasn't interested, but she either didn't care or didn't notice -- as drunk as she obviously was, I wasn't sure. The conversation continued for a little while, then after about 45 minutes or so of me trying to figure out how to get the hell out of this situation, I saw her cross herself for the second time. And it occurred to me...
"So, you're Catholic, then?" I said, gesturing vaguely at her crossing herself.
"Yes, I am," she said. "You're an American yourself, so I suppose you must be part of one of the Protestant branches?"
"No, actually, I'm an atheist," I smiled, and took another pull of my stout.
She suddenly took her hands off me and leaned back. "What? No, you never were!"
"Actually, I always was," I said. "Never even went thru one of those deconversions you sometimes hear about."
For the next few minutes or so, she put a few markers on the Atheist Bingo Card ("So, what... you believe in nothin' then?"), then she excused herself and left.
I watched her leaving, then as soon as she was out the door, I turned to the bartender, who had been observing the situation discreetly from a distance. We looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"I could hear your skin crawl all the way from the other side of the pub!" He told me. "I know," I said, "Guess I really dodged a bullet there, eh? Another pint, if you'd be so kind."
Rather nice, for once, to be able to turn anti-atheist bigotry to my advantage. (Oh, and that's why I put this in "Religion and Society".)